The Basque Government will communicate this Monday the “new measures” to control the pandemic that will be applied in the Basque Country within the framework of the state of alarm. “It offers the necessary margin of action to respond to the situation and evolution of the pandemic with the agility and haste that the emergency requires”, they value from the Executive of Iñigo Urkullu. The measures are not specified but they do “try to be as adjusted, proportionate and balanced to face the current situation.” Sources from the Basque Presidency indicate that the most reasonable thing would be to make mandatory some recommendations already issued, such as that the meetings are not of more than six people or that those who reside in localities of the so-called ‘red zone’ do not leave their municipalities for non-work reasons or force majeure, with incidence rates of more than 500 cases for each 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days, which could include Donostia itself and a large part of Gipuzkoa from this Monday.
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These sources indicate that the technical commission of the sanitary emergency will meet at 8:00 this Monday. It is a body smaller than the advisory council, a crisis table known by its acronym in Euskara (LABI) and that sits councilors from various areas such as Health, Education, Security or Tourism, Commerce and Consumption, as well as the councils, the mayors of the capitals and the delegate of the Government of Spain. According to the Bizi Berri II plan – the guide to this second wave of the pandemic in Euskadi ‘, this technical commission is “initially composed” of Koldo Cambra, head of health programs, Enrique Peiró, coordinator of public health programs, Esteban de Manuel, director of the Kronikgune research institute, Joseba Bidaurrazaga, deputy director of public health in Bizkaia, and Iñaki Gutierrez-Ibarluzea, of BIOEF. The coordinator is the advisor to the Lehendakari and former head of Human Rights, Jonan Fernández. The opposition has criticized both the profile of the person in charge and the lack of women.
Euskadi, to a certain extent, is the origin of the operation that has led the Government of Pedro Sánchez to decree this Sunday a state of alarm for all of Spain until May 9 and with a general curfew at eleven o’clock at night, although in Euskadi it could be modulated so that it starts between ten and twelve and ends between five and seven in the morning. Like Sánchez, Urkullu is also reluctant to use that concept and prefers to talk about limitations to night activity.
On Saturday 17, when the pandemic was already showing signs of rising again, the Basque Minister of Health, Gotzone Sagardui, presented a package of measures among which stood out limiting meetings to a maximum of six people. It did not enter into force on that date, as it was sent for ratification to the Superior Court of Justice of the Basque Country (TSJPV). Although already in August, after a “informal consultation” with the contentious-administrative chamber, limiting groups to ten people it remained a recommendation and not an obligation, the Government of Iñigo Urkullu was convinced that it would have the judicial approval. But it was not like that and the scene changed from the root.
The contentious-administrative chamber, on Thursday, clearly told the Basque Government two things. One, that constitutional rights such as mobility or freedom of assembly can only be limited by organic law – special majority rules that can only come out of the Cortes Generales – and, two, that the organic law of 1986 with general proposals on public health it wasn’t guaranteed enough to do so. The Basque Executive (a coalition of PNV and PSE-EE) understood the message: it was opening “a framework that intends to close doors to any measure that does not go through the prior decision to declare the state of alarm.”
On the same Thursday night, the LABI’s health emergency crisis table turned the toughest measures into a recommendation – municipal confinements with high incidence and meetings of only six people – but with the awareness that this was insufficient due to the increasingly high numbers of infections registered by the Basque Country. This week the pandemic has grown by 49% compared to the previous one. Thus, on Friday Urkullu made a virtue of necessity and after having been one of the leaders most critical of the state of alarm during the first wave – to the point of always referring to the situation as a health emergency – led the regional requests to Sánchez. Its condition: that the central government delegate the regulation and management of the measures to the regional presidents. Accepting this point, and in the absence of the details of the decree in the Official State Gazette, the Basque Country trusts in being able to act with legal certainty and speed.
What is not clear is how Sánchez’s “recommendation” that the regional presidents give an account in their respective parliaments of the evolution of their management in front of the framework of exceptionality will be conveyed. The rule obliges the central government to submit to the control of the Cortes Generales but is not specific in the case of regional delegation. Urkullu has already spoken with the president of the Basque Parliament, Bakartxo Tejeria, but has not transcended the scope of the conversation.